*In process of stocking.* First, long over-due, Another Timbre disc of the US composer Evan Johnson. Five works from his unique, whispering soundworld. Three pieces in the ‘L’art de toucher le clavecin’ series, with ‘thaes ofereode, thisses swa maeg’ for cello and voice, and ‘Plan and section of the same reservoir’ played by Trio Accanto. Note that the CD version of this album includes a fifth track, 'Plan and section of the same reservoir', which can't be included as part of the Bandcamp download for copyright reasons.
"Maybe where the chaotically disparate musical influences I feel—medieval music, the French Baroque, complexity and post-complexity, the anarchic experimentalism of Peter Ablinger, Antoine Beuger, Jo Kondo—come together is in a palpable attitude towards the compositional act: something like wonder.
It's an insistence on the sense of possibility inherent in things often taken for granted, like the fact of notation, the air and the sense of space shared in live performance, the microscopic timescale of ensemble interactions and instrumental techniques, the way instruments feel in the hand in all their concreteness, their weights and tensions; and maybe most of all on the value of things that are ambiguous, hidden, private, encoded, or otherwise not perfectly evident.
Notated composition, after all, is a bizarre and uniquely indirect art form, full of possibilities for misdirection, miscommunication, secrets, and overflow. These are traditionally papered over these days in a reflexive valorization of "clarity" and "efficiency" in composition and notation, but to me that misses the point. The music I treasure, of whatever sort (and this is as true of Mahler and Sibelius as of Ferneyhough and Louis Couperin and the ars subtilior) leaves ambiguities in its wake, and asks questions it doesn't answer. I'm not sure what the point is otherwise.
The fact is there's already way, way too much music in the world, and it is much too easily accessible. This is good for entertainment but a disaster for our sense of wonder. Nobody alive in the last couple of centuries, let alone today, will ever know the feeling of hearing, say, an Ockeghem mass in the fifteenth century, in the context of that life. It must have been something absolutely, unspeakably extraordinary, something inexpressibly transcendent. I think about this a lot. For me, at least, the only point in subjecting the world to more music now is if it can do something to recapture even a trace of what makes music special, which is precisely this shared air, these shared pressures, this concreteness, this state of exception."
- Evan Johnson